Anglian York

The York Helmet - Yorkshire Museum, York

Anglo-Saxons were living in and around York by the late 400s: we know that from cemetery remains.  But it is only from about 600 that there is clear evidence of the city’s status.

During this period the four great Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Wessex, East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria were defined and Christianity was re-established.

The York settlement was called Eoforwic, which suggests it was a place of some significance.  The ‘wics’ were seemingly the most important commercial centres in each of the kingdoms – others were Lundenwic (London) and Gipeswic (Ipswich).

York scholar Alcuin, meanwhile, described his home town as an emporium, a seat of commerce by land and sea, and another writer mentions a colony of international merchants living in or near the city.

The main gateways through the Roman fortress defences meant that the streets linking them were preserved, however new streets started criss-crossing the city as Roman buildings fell away.  Goodramgate and Blake Street are two examples.

There may have been a major Anglian church on the site of St Mary Castlegate, next to the place that the wonderful York Helmet was found during the Coppergate excavations.  The helmet has been dated to about 750 to 775.  Evidence of a settlement from around 700 to 850 was discovered not far away at Fishergate – at the junction of rivers Ouse and Foss.  Timber buildings about 13m by 6m stood within a plot of 1,200 square metres.  Associated ditches, rubbish pits, wells and latrines were nearby.  There is also evidence of manufacture from raw materials including iron, lead, copper, wool, leather and bone.

Perhaps this site was Eorforwic.

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